Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 1, number 7
May 31, 2003 Queen of Heaven
- Missing Newsletter?/Spam Filters
- Living in Season: Summer Pilgrimages
- Rave Review: Emperor of Scent
- New Midsummer Packet
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it.
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Missing Newsletter?/Spam Warning
If it seems like you missed the mid-May newsletter, that's true. I wrote three different versions, all around the theme of flowers, checked out a pile of flower lore books from the library, got inspired to add more flower lore to my website and maybe produce a flower almanac, but failed to distill the information into a newsletter.
I promise in the future to restrain my enthusiasm and meet my commitment to send you a newsletter twice a month. Meanwhile if you don't receive this newsletter in the future, be aware that your internet service provider may be filtering out some or all "group" emails, assuming that they are spam.
From now on, I will be posting the newsletter on my website so can always check there for the latest version. Earthlink users, please put the From: address (email@example.com) on your approved senders list. If you experience any problems receiving this newsletter, please let me know.
Living in Season: Summer Pilgrimages
As summer approaches, I feel a restlessness, a longing, just like the characters in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to go on pilgrimage. This impulse is an ancient one in the human spirit. In medieval Europe, the highways and cities were always thronged with tourists during the summer. But these tourists were not simply seeing the sights, but pilgrims, on their way to visit the great sacred sites. The pilgrimage was an opportunity to travel, meet new people, and visit exotic places but ultimately the purpose and destination of the trip were spiritual.
Several years ago I made a pilgrimage to a holy mountain dedicated to St. Michael to fulfill a commitment I made when I asked for his help. I intended to go to Mont St Michel in Normandy, but instead I climbed to the top of Skirrid Fawr, in the Brecon Beacons of Wales, the site of a ruined chapel to St. Michael. It was an amazing adventure, from my first noticing a mention of this site in an obscure guide book, to finding it on a map at the tourist center, to walking along the highway and seeing the mountain looming in the distance, to scrambling up the last few feet of a vertical slope and finally savoring the dizzying and panoramic view from the top. Everything fell into place in the most magical way. Although my adventure was not crowned with a spiritual insight, it did confer upon me a sense of accomplishment and faith in my abilities. As with most pilgrimages, it was the journey that was significant, not the achievement of the peak.
It was easy for me to recognize sacred sites in the British Isles. You could look them up in books on standing stones or sacred sites. They had been marked as holy places and visited for centuries. But it took a Midwestern transplant, therapist William Whittman, to help me recognize the sacred sites in my neighborhood. At one time, Whittman offered pilgrimages on the equinoxes and solstices. When he started mentioning the places he considered sacred, I recognized they were spots that were already special to me: the beach where I go to burn my solstice bonfire, the old cemetery near my house, a marshy spot where a friend of mine reported once seeing a water spirit.
I hadn't recognized them as sacred sites because they were popular. But, just as the great cathedrals of Europe were built around holy wells, so popularity can mark a place that people have gathered for centuries. Sacred sites also don't have to be solemn; they can be places of festivity. And they dont have to be natural; a little park across from Lakeview Cemetery with its ring of standing metal columns, is one of my favorite sacred sites. Begin to notice which places you go to when you are in need of refreshment or solace or wilderness. These are sacred sites.
I find it's important, because of the sort of person I am, to set a date for my pilgrimages. One year I took photographs at the nearby cemetery on all of the seasonal holidays. That meant sometimes taking time off work so that I could be there when the light was right. Those of you who have enrolled in my correspondence course know that my summer plan says I will go to visit Mount Saint Helen's, the volcano that erupted over twenty years ago. Actually I have never been. So this year, with all of you as my witnesses, I will commit to driving there on the Summer Solstice (the height of the sun's power) to experience firsthand the effects of the fire energy of the earth.
Rave Review: Emperor of Scent
Just finished reading a fabulous narrative non-fiction book, which I happened upon while trying to figure out why flowers smell: The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr.
It's the story of Luca Turin, a man who is so obsessed by scent that he collects old perfumes and writes reviews of them in lyrical prose like this about a perfume called Rush:
The charm of this perfume is entirely man-made, no mention of Nature, e.g. flowers, etc. This thing smells like a person. To be exact, thanks to the milky lactone note, it smells like an infant's breath mixed with his mother's hair spray
.What Rush can do, as all great art does, is create a yearning, then fill it with false memories of an invented past
While teaching at the University College London, Turin began working on a new theory of smell: that our noses register scents as vibrations. In rambling but lyrical prose, similar to the digressive way Turin follows his obsessions, Burr describes Turin's quest to prove his theory and get it recognized by the scientific community who have invested a lot of research time in an opposing theory: that our noses recognize smell by the shape of the scent molecules.
I've only read one other book (Candace Pert's book Molecules of Emotion) which helped me appreciate the creativity of the scientific researcher's process, very similar to mine as a writer. But this book is twice as delicious because of the evocative power of scent. I got enormous vicarious pleasure watching Turin analyze and describe scents. With just a few vivid descriptors like "sweaty mango" and "grapefruit and hot horses," he can capture a smell and identify the chemical compound that produces it. I also loved the glimpse inside the perfume industry.The book triggered memories of perfumes from my past. My Dad woreOld Spice but my first boyfriend used Brut and I think my first perfumewas Tabu.
Midsummer Packet Coming Soon
I'm madly writing my next holiday packet: Midsummer, which will be available for mailing on June 11th, St. Barnaby's Day. This illustrated portfolio is stuffed full of ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer and Litha. Including how to make wreaths to toss in the Midsummer bonfire and gardens of Adonis to set adrift on the waters of a river, songs to praise the sun, magical herbs and flowers to gather on Midsummer's Night's Eve, and much more. To order go to our store. $9 +$3 shipping for the print version, $7 for email.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2003.
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